Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bird Feeder

This is how he works.

I make an impulse buy of bird food at Safeway, figuring I'll begin to feed the birds. I bring it home and put it down by the boots and coats in the mudroom of our house. He comes home that night and sees the birdseed.

"Do you want me to build you a bird feeder?" he says.

I hesitate. I'm used to doing things by myself and I can buy a bird feeder at a hardware store. Or get a hammer and nails and pound one together. That probably would never happen, but I'm an independent, two-fisted, I-Can-Do-It-Myself Maine woman and I could do it if I wanted to do it. After pausing, I say, "Sure," and forget about it.

I visit the gallery one day. "Want to see your bird feeder?" he says. Okay, why not. I follow him to his work area, where I look for some small rough-wooded contraption that he's glued together, but that isn't what he's doing.

What he's done is to take a piece of PVC pipe and attach it to the underside of the plastic top of a plastic bucket. He then has drilled holes into the bottom of the PVC pipe so that we can fill the hollow pipe with bird seed and it will dribble out of the holes into the bucket top feeder. He has a plastic cap that fits over the hollow PVC, bird seed-filled pipe. This cap will protect the bird seed from possible marauders.

The bird feeder.

To keep out the squirrels and the weather, he has fashioned a cap from part of an old tin ceiling to protect the bird food. Then, he affixes steel rods with little hooks on the end for perches, along with wooden chicken-terayaki sticks that circle the feeder so that the birds can perch while waiting to eat.

Old tin roof from a ceiling for the cover. Metal and wooden perches for the feeding birds.

We ponder how to hang the bird feeder, which has a triangular handle. He was originally going to hang the feeder on a chain link, up high so that the deer won't shoulder their voracious way into the seeds and scatter them all to kingdom come. I nix the chain link idea because it sounds heavy and cold and cumbersome to handle, because, after all, this is my idea and I will be the one to take care of the seed.

So, he fashions a pulley-operated, slim, but strong green rope with which I can raise and lower the feeder.  He screws a cleat into the tree we've selected to hang the feeder on, so that I can wrap the rope around it to keep the feeder aloft.

How I raise and lower the bird feeder.

We fill the feeder and pull it up for its maiden voyage. Then I sit in the living room and wait. In an hour, I'm impatient and bereft because the birds aren't using it. Any birds. "They're used to their own places," he says. "They'll discover it." And they do. The first bird I see flit onto the feeder, grab something within a millisecond, and dash away with it is a black-capped chickadee. The chickadee-dee-dee is Maine's state bird. I take this as a sign that my South Dakota feeder has Maine roots.

Now, a feisty group of dark-eyed juncos is enjoying the benefits of the fruits of his labor. One piggy blue jay landed briefly, but the tin-ceiling is too low, and it didn't stay long. It gives me great pleasure to watch the birds enjoy the food on these cold, snowy days. The dog and I go out every morning to fill the feeder and to scatter more near the bushes where the juncos hang out.

And I'm astounded at his creativity. The way he thinks amazes me. The bird feeder, and the practical use of seemingly disparate materials he used to put it together, reminds me of what Picasso did with a bicycle seat and bicycle handle bars.

Pablo Picasso, Bull's Head and Horns, fashioned from a bicycle seat and handle bars.

It also reminds me to let him in. To answer "Yes" when he suggests that he build something, or do something, or cook something for me, instead of pausing to wonder if he thinks that I'm too stupid to do it myself. Or, in its darkest form, wondering if his offer is a trick that will somehow come back to bite me in the butt.

How about this? I can accept his offers, and attach them to something completely foreign to me, like cooperative partnership, turn my heart upside down so that it holds what he has to offer, cover it with trust, and lower it so that I can fill it with patience and love, along with millet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. Then, I can raise it up again and wait to see what lands there to feed so that it can digest the sustenance and strength it needs to take flight.